Migration: Civipol, the French multinational that sells security in Africa

The terrorism fever and the migrant crisis have contributed to change the international cooperation of the European Union. No longer only an instrument to close the gap with inequality, to build new commercial opportunities and for growth, the money allocated for international cooperation has also been invested to “instruct”, with lots of money, the countries with strong migratory pressure in order to stop the migrants before they cross the Mediterranean.

Security beats development. Forgetting, according to some observers, the respect of human rights. In this process of transformation, new mixed agencies have been created, far from being non-governmental, but neither public agencies. They are private companies with public funds, at whose command sit statesmen.

The projects of the Trust Fund for Civipol

After a year and a half from its inauguration,  the European Emergency Trust Fund for Africa has an allocation of 2.8 billion. The principal scope, for which it was created, is to accelerate the intervention to fight the roots of the migratory phenomenon. The Sahel is an area in which some of the principal projects supported by the Trust Fund are concentrated. Here, the fourth most financed organization, after the UN organization against migration IOM and the German GIZ and Spanish FIAPP, public agencies of cooperation, is Civipol, French giant of formation and consultation in the field of security, with projects worth 44 million euro. To these, the French company adds a portion of the 46 million euro that the Trust Fund has allocated for “Border Migration Management,” a detailed project for the control of the frontiers in the Horn of Africa, headed by the German agency GIZ.

What is Civipol?

Civipol was created in 2001 as a supplier of services (audit, consultation, technical support and formation) for the French Ministry of the Interior. However, from 2006 onward, it has always had a more international vocation, obviously concentrated in the former French colonies. From a  “state company,” Civipol has become an international player of cooperation, almost as a totally private player. This way, the company becomes always more independent of public support, strong in its ability to be awarded projects outside of France.

Civipol knew how to make space for itself in a very competitive market; in 2016 it bought the Belgian Transtec, a company well known in the sector of consultation for projects of a humanitarian nature and cooperation for development, two of the fields among which the French were weakest. Furthermore, Civipol has a client portfolio which includes Michelin, the naval transport company CMA CGM and the communication company Data4. 40% publicly held by the Ministry of the Treasury, the rest is divided among Airbus DS and Thales with over 12%, then Morpho and Défense Conseil International (DCI – group tied to the Ministry of Defense) with about 10% and minor shareholders Allianz France and the company of the French airports, with just over 1%.

Furthermore, on the board of directors sit managers from large state agencies that participate in the capital of Civipol, the crème of the French industry. At the beginning of 2016, it had 59 projects in course for commissions of a total value of 94 million euro. The field “internal security,” that calls for the cooperation of Civipol with law enforcement, is what produces almost two thirds of the commissions, one fourth comes from projects of civil protection and the remaining 6% is derived from administrative consultation.

Violated Human Rights?

Is Civipol’s securitarian mission compatible with the prerogatives of international cooperation, like the promotion of human rights? Benoit Muracciole, formerly responsible for the campaign for arms control by Amnesty International France, now director of ASER (Action Sécurité Ethique Républicaines), association for disarmament, claims “we believe that in the matter of security there has been a regression; private entities which are involved do not have the faintest clue about human rights.”

“Safeguarding human rights” is not a vague formula states Muracciole, but it is necessary to follow procedures that have been ratified at the level of the United Nations and Europe. They foresee principles sanctioned by international conventions, like proportionality, use of force as extrema ratio and the possibility of investigating police forces, untouchable in autocratic countries. “We have no idea if Civipol and other private agencies that do formation in the field of security in France and in the world follow these directives,” he adds, “In the documents one only frequently reads ‘human rights’ but it is not clear what it means.”

In 2015, the Cash Investigation program on France2 conducted an investigation on the repression of the protests against the regime in Manama, Bahrain – alimented by the Arab Spring – where, between 2011 and 2014, a strong opposition by the Shiite majority was born against the Sunni minority which supports the Al-Khalifa royal family.

From 2001, France has an agreement  of cooperation in the emirate with law enforcement. In particular, in 2008, companies like Civipol and DCI conducted courses of formation for the “democratic management of crowds.” However, those same law enforcement groups trained by the French killed dozens of demonstrators. Not only this, following the formation, France increased the sale of arms and security material, from 3 million euro to 27 million euro in 2011 when the protests erupted. A fact that raises different questions. Especially because Civipol is the organizer of Milipol, an international arms trade fair, in which private entities, governments and international agencies meet to reach new agreements.

It is one of the most important arms trade fair in the world. There are three trade fairs: in Paris, Doha and Singapore. Singapore hosted Milipol for the first time from the 4th to the 7th of April 2017; on its website, Civipol explains that 266 exhibitors from 36 countries, 4 thousand visitors and 70 delegates from 11 countries attended. However, in its FAQ section, the company states that it does not promote the sale of “equipment” nor security “materials.” Not even weapons.

Agreements in Libya

The public shareholding of Civipol renders it a unique company. In fact, it has the French State as a great promoter. The best testimonial possible. For example, in Libya, since 2013, at every meeting between Libyan and French diplomats there has been talk of the services of Civipol within the negotiations. After all, every European government tries (rightfully so) to show off its industrial jewels abroad. And for France, Civipol is part  of this category. An obvious case goes back to May 2014, when, in Paris, the French Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve proposed to his Libyan counterpart Saleh Mazeg Abderrahim al-Barassi a formation program for the Libyan military forces conducted by Civipol.

It was the time during which France was trying to become the most influential European power with the newly created Libyan government. Three months after the effective entry of Transtec in the French group during the autumn of 2016, Civipol is still in Libya supporting the NTC, the government of national unity, for the formation of new Libyan institutions through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). “As of October 2013,” reports Africa Intelligence, “it has signed a contract for the formation of one thousand policemen and 64 Libyan officials.”

The project with the Janjaweed in Sudan

Over 65% of Civipol’s foreign commissions are in Africa. Of the 40 countries outside of the EU where Civipol is present, 35 are in Africa. Among them, there is one that has already raised much discussion in Europe. It is the agreement for the formation of border guards between Libya and Sudan, that has as its leaders GIZ, the German cooperative agency, the French equivalent Expertise France, the British Council, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNODC, the UN office for the fight against drugs.

The project is called “Border Migrations Management” and is worth 46 million euro. According to the magazine Africa Intelligence and the report published by a group of four euro-parliamentarians of the GUE (Group for the European United Left) after a visit to Khartoum, former Janjaweed militia received formation to become policemen of the new Sudan, the same who massacred civilians during the war in Darfur. One of these ex-combatants Mohamed Hamdan Dalgo, alias Hemiti, has said to have stopped over 300 migrants at the border between Sudan and Libya.

Hemiti, along with his militia, has been accused by Human Rights Watch to have conducted attacks against civilians in Darfur. Nevertheless, he has been placed at the head of the Border Guards. Not only, on August 3, 2016, Italy signed an agreement with the Sudanese police forces to expedite the procedures for forced repatriation. The two projects have yielded parliamentary inquiries, both in Rome and Brussels, because Sudan is not considered a country that respects human rights.

By Lorenzo Bagnoli

This investigation report – Diverted Aid – has been funded by the European Journalism Centre (EJC) via its “Innovation in Development Reporting Grant“.

Cover picture: EUCAP Sahel Mali. Training activity for civil police in the region. Credits: EU

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